Where's my Pokemon Snapsequel, Nintendo?

But, okay. Unless the, at the time of this writing, upcoming E3 presentation gives me a new one of those, this is the spinoff we've got to work with for now. Sitting as the small, light, "you can play this today" announcement from the recent Pokemon conference, Pokemon Quest is probably likely to fall under the radar of a fair few folks.

Though the fact that it's free-to-start and also on mobile will certainly ensure that they make plenty of money on the thing and keep plenty of eyes on the franchise, in the leadup to this November's Pokemon Let's Go games.

I'm going to be saying Pokemon a lot.

So, that whole free-to-play, free-to-start dynamic also makes this one a bit tricky to review. After all, one of the fundamental things I go off of as a reviewer is whether or not a game is worth what you're going to pay for it. I've openly been more gentle on games that cost as much as a sandwich, compared to games that cost as much as a dinner out for two.

By that measure, any free-to-play game that functions is worth 'buying', ergo we're done here you can go now.

But that's not really the whole of the experience, now is it? After all, your time is worth something too. And that's without touching on the fact that making progress in these kinds of games will often be helped by spending some amount of money.

I guess the simplest place to look at is to start in on the gameplay itself. Pokemon Quest has a very simple setup, even for a Pokemon game. You've come to a mysterious island for research purposes, where everything is kind of...boxy and cutesy. It's kind of like one of the softer, gentler texture packs for Minecraft, in fact, or perhaps the obscure but interesting Cubivore. You get your first pokemon, and you can start sending it off on expeditions!

On its own. Without a trainer. So it's a pretty different experience. A team of up to three pokemon will go out, and automatically navigate a simple map; your task on the expedition isn't to control them, but rather to issue some basic move commands while an automatic battle goes on in the field. Every expedition ultimately runs on the same basic setup; you go through wave after wave of smallfry, get to the big pokemon in the area, then kick its ass to clear the field.

When your pokemon return, having used up one charge of your drone's battery (which refills in realtime), you can use the ingredients they brought back to cook, socket in the helpful power stones they found to boost their stats, or just decorate your little base with things you can buy with tickets. It's a lot of meters and things filling up through different metrics, producing a feel that's less Pokemon game on mobile, and more another take on a mobile-style game using some Pokemon pieces.

And while it is on Switch, and that is how I played it, the game is clearly mobile-first. It generally assumes touchscreen play, with only some basic button controls set up for if you're playing on the TV. The menus are all built around the assumption that you're going to be tapping and dragging, not using the joycons. Quite frankly, the only reason you should is if you have limitations that prevent you from going for the touchscreen.

Now, none of this is to say the actual gameplay is bad. A lot of it, when taken for what it is, works pretty well. The expeditions are quick enough that they don't get boring, and the game has a satisfying little loop to it. The sheer amount of tiny rewards can feel a little manipulative, though I'll say it's a lot less than some mobile games I've played.

Unsurprisingly, the whole thing sticks to the original 151 pokemon, much like Pokemon GO did when it first launched. It makes sense for a breezy game largely aimed at lapsed fans; these are the pokemon they remember, not...Hold on let me generate a random number to make the joke...

There's one that's a goddamned chandelier? And it's the end of an evolutionary track that starts as a candle. That's, that's just bananas and I kind of love it. Give me my angry ghost chandelier, I'm down.

Ahem. Anyways, money question. How bad does the game fleece you for real cash? It's actually not that bad, if you're willing to treat this as a "poke at it for a couple minutes" kind of game and not an "obsessively play it for several hours" kind. There's only one actual currency, PM Tickets, which act as your chief reward for just about all milestones. This simple thing, right here, does a huge amount to soften the game, since it means everything has to be priced around the same currency. And while I can't speak to mobile, I haven't seen found a way to just plain buy PM Tickets. The various paid items offer some as a one-time bonus, but even those you can (seemingly) buy repeatedly give you the Tickets one time.

So what we're left with is a bit of a curious crossroads, where the game is actually significantly easier to recommend if you're a lapsed fan, than if you're super intensely into Pokemon and looking to get your mainline RPG fix. At the end of the day, it's certainly a well-made example of what it is, with a lot of fun things to play with...But what it is, is so far different from a Pokemon game that it might not be what you're after.

Still, the thing's free, so I'd say at least give it a shot. What could it hurt, right?